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How We Are Giving Back To The Exeter Community

May 25, 2019

The team at The Hair Boutique in Exeter are dedicated to giving back to our community. We love to work with organisations that hit close to home like Hair at The Academy.

This kind of work involves the act of extending love and kindness to other people unconditionally, and without expecting anything in return. Their work is essential in communities and done purely for the benefit of those who need it the most.

At The Hair Boutique, we believe in giving back to our local community by extending a helping hand to those who need it. In our eyes, the best way to help those who are disadvantaged is to help them learn a trade that will help secure them a job and comfortable living for the rest of their careers.

Whether an individual has fallen on hard times and found themselves in the streets with nothing and no one or has had a rough start to life and just needs to be given a chance - Hair at The Academy do just that.

We believe that the greatest gift that we can give to our community is contributing to making the lives of those in need better. We understand that by doing our small part, we can touch many local lives in profound ways.

The Hair Boutique is proud to be located in Exeter and we work hard to contribute to our local community by not only providing exceptional service to our customers, but also by using our talents and space to help others achieve goals that they may not be able to accomplish on their own.

With so many talented people on our team, we would be amiss to not spread our talent and knowledge to those who need it. We are honoured to work with Hair at The Academy, helping those in need reach goals that they never dreamed were possible.

What is Hair at The Academy?

Hair at the Academy is education to employment- a training salon that helps students of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to succeed.

This organisation was founded over 13 years ago by Mary Pugsley who set out to help disadvantaged people who are interested in the hair business train in the hair and beauty industry and find employment.

To date, more than 200 students have taken qualifications, with a 95% pass rate. These students have gone on to work at salons both locally and all across the county.

As part of the training, specialist tutors at Learn Devon are available to help prepare learners for the workplace. Learn Devon’s support includes helping with their maths and English skills.

In fact, one of our own, Abbie, is a graduate of Hair at the Academy and is now a successful apprentice with us here at The Hair Boutique. We are beyond proud to be able to offer her an apprenticeship after helping her successfully graduate from the training program.

Hair at the Academy’s mission is to help disadvantaged individuals improve their life and situation by providing comprehensive training that earns them a certification that will help them to land a career that supports and fulfils them for the rest of their life.

Many individuals who participate in the program do not have any experience in professional working environments. The ability to work well with others is something that many of us take for granted.

For many of the learners who come from challenging backgrounds, just the opportunity to take part in such a scheme is a giant achievement for them. This scheme gives them the tools and knowledge to turn their life around and create something that they did not know was possible.

Hair at the Academy provides a safe learning environment where the learners feel safe and supported throughout the whole process. Many of those who participate in this program have faced challenges in their life that have left them feeling hopeless. Hair at the Academy is a ray of sunshine and beacon of hope for these learners.

This scheme prepares individuals for the workplace and helps them find training placement outside of the classroom. Beyond that, they provide support moving onto further training and ultimately employment.

Hair at the Academy teams up with local salons, like The Hair Boutique. Those of us who participate in this meaningful work donate some of our time and resources to helping train those in the program.

The team at Hair at the Academy takes the time to get to know each and every interested person’s unique situation and circumstances. They don’t turn you away because your timetable doesn’t mesh with theirs.

There is no one size fits all course. The team gets to know each person’s needs and situation and then works around it to find a style and timeline that works well for them.

The best part is that the dedicated team of professionals are there to support the trainees in every way from start to finish. We truly want to see the trainees succeed and accomplish goals that they never thought possible.

We believe that the best way to help underprivileged individuals is to teach them a trade that will help ensure them gainful employment, give them a sense of purpose and re-invigorate their lives.

The team at The Hair Boutique believes very strongly in this worthwhile project. We have a deep desire to help people to learn a trade that will ultimately provide them with a good livelihood and sense of purpose in their lives. Additionally, the skills the learners acquire allow them to provide a valuable service to our community.

Program Options

Hair at the Academy is a training salon that helps students of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to succeed. They require no prior experience and the traineeships lead to professional apprenticeships.

They offer four different programs to choose from:

- VTCT Entry Level Certificate in an Introduction to the Hair and Beauty Sector (school age)

The purpose of this qualification is to develop participant’s skills in both hair and beauty and provide them with the foundation for further learning at level 1. It will also enable them to perform their own services and to assist others in the salon.

- VTCT Level 1 Certificate in an Introduction to the Hair and Beauty Sector (school age)

This qualification will prepare participants for either supervised employment in the hair and beauty industry working as an apprentice or for further study at level 2.

- VTCT Level 2 Diploma in Women’s and Men’s Hairdressing (16-19)

Learners who complete this qualification are eligible to become a graduate State Registered Hairdresser/Barber (SRH/B) with The Hairdressing Council. Career opportunities as a junior unisex hairdresser/stylist exist in a variety of contexts, including:

  • Commercial unisex salons
  • Specialist African type unisex salons
  • Independent/self-employed/mobile/home-based settings
  • Product manufacturing and training
  • Television, film, theatre and media
  • Armed Services
  • HM Prison Service
  • Cruise liners

- VTCT Level 2 Certificate in Barbering (16 plus)

This qualification will prepare participants for employment as a junior unisex hairdresser. On completion of this qualification they will widen their career opportunities from working as a hairdresser to be able to offer unisex services through a variety of contexts, including:

  • Working in a unisex hair salon
  • Working independently/self-employed/mobile/home-based settings

Who Is Mary Pugsley?

Mary Pugsley is the founder and owner of Hair at the Academy as well as the director of the program. Mary started this venture over 13 years ago, fuelled by her passion to give people the opportunity to train and succeed in getting into employment.

Mary created a salon in what used to be the upstairs loo of the Deaf Academy of Exeter. Rather than open the salon to the paying public, Mary wanted to use her skills and knowledge to give back to the community that she lives in.

She turned the salon into a safe place for individuals as young as 13 years old to come and get an education that can lead them into success in their future.

Most of the individuals that Mary has helped along the way have had a rough start at life to say the least and would otherwise end up in a life of abuse, alcohol or drugs.

Hair at the Academy considers itself the last stop for those who have no where else to go. A place for individuals to be given a chance when they feel as though no one else will.

Mary takes great pride in transforming the lives of those who are otherwise lost and living a life of despair. She loves to watch the transformation take place, watching young people who come in barely able to make eye contact, to watching them leave with their heads held high with a degree and wealth of knowledge to take with them.

She put together a strong team of dedicated professionals who have worked hard to make this program what it is today. Mary and her team have helped over 200 students to date in getting certifications that have led them to apprenticeships and employment.

Mary recently received a very prestigious award for her service. Mary has been awarded Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her services to disadvantaged people living in Devon.

This highly exclusive award comes as part of The Queen’s 2019 New Year Honours List. This list recognises the service and achievements of only a select few in the UK every year.

We are honoured to work closely with such a champion of the education sector who works tirelessly to help those who are battling against the odds. Mary’s vision and mission are one that we also believe firmly in and are proud to work alongside her with disadvantaged people in our community.

Nicky’s Role

If you have been to The Hair Boutique, you’ve probably already met Nicky, our fabulous style director and salon owner. Nicky volunteers her time and knowledge two days a week to Hair at the Academy.

Nicky set up The Hair Boutique in 2014 after already having a loyal following of clients. Nicky has been styling hair for over 20 years now and has a wealth of knowledge and skills in the industry.

When given the opportunity to participate in such a meaningful organisation, Nicky and the rest of the team jumped on board quickly. Nicky’s many years of experience and training allows her to teach others the trade effectively.

In Nicky’s words: “We strongly believe and support this worthwhile project and wanted to help people to learn a great trade that can create a good livelihood and a sense of purpose. The skills they learn will empower all involved in this scheme to provide a valuable service.”

The Importance of Helping the Disadvantaged

It goes without saying that the work is vital to every community. There will always be those who have had a rough or unfair start to life or who have fell on difficult times for one reason or another.

The Hair Boutique firmly believes in giving back to the community that we live in and sharing not only our knowledge and skills with others but lifting them up and showing them that there is another way.

Give a man a fish, and you will feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

This ancient proverb encompasses the work that Hair at the Academy does for our community. By teaching disadvantaged individuals a trade, we are setting them up for success for the rest of their life.

We cannot say enough about Mary and the rest of the team at Hair at the Academy and we are beyond proud and humbled to have the opportunity to take part in such a meaningful cause.

If you want to learn more about Hair at the Academy, visit

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